I consider myself an optimistic fan. I consider myself patient. I believe in Kevin Cheveldayoff and I believe in his vision of a long-term plan to help the Winnipeg Jets sustain consistent competitiveness.
With that being said, since the Jets returned, I, like many, have observed, formed opinions, and arrived at my own personal conclusions. That's not to say I am correct, not by any means. But, I have arrived at a mindset and formed opinions on Claude Noel and the Winnipeg Jets that until proven otherwise, I am sticking to my guns. Prove me wrong, Claude. Prove me wrong, Jets. I'd love for that to be the case, but it's going to take some sustained consistency and improvements on the ice to make me believe in you.
The NHL is a game of moving parts, be it players, coaches, and general managers. It's just the way it is, it's the name of the game. When things don't go well, tough and unfortunate decisions need to be made. Players, coaches and general managers get uprooted from their lives, families, and comfort zones. But, it's a part of the business, it's a part of the game.
If things don't improve with the Winnipeg Jets in the near future, I believe some areas need addressed. I'd like to now bring forward the St. Louis Blues of just a couple short years ago.
David Backes, Alexander Steen, T.J. Oshie, David Perron, Patrik Berglund, Erik Johnson, Alex Pietrangelo, Barret Jackman, Jaroslav Halak. Throughout the 2010-2011 season, this core had an average age of approximately 23.8. All labeled with intriguing potential, all were deemed the future of the St. Louis Blues. All however, were not performing up to standards. They were not taking that next step. They were fluttering in the wind, going nowhere.
February 2011 arrived, and so did a big shake-up the Blues had to make. They traded 2006 1st overall pick, defenseman Erik Johnson, and a conditional first-round pick in 2011 or 2012 to the Colorado Avalanche in return for power forward Chris Stewart, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and a conditional second-round pick in 2011 or 2012.
A roster shake-up was made. It had to be made, and the St. Louis Blues made it. This is an organization who valued scouting, drafting, draft picks, and it's developmental system. So much so that the Blues organization had a whopping 12 first-round picks in just eight drafts dating from 2003-2010. They, like the Jets, had a blueprint. However, when it became all too apparent during the 2010-11 season that changes needed to be made, they were bold, and they made changes. They even parted with a long, prized organizational possession in that big February 2011 trade with Colorado, a first-round pick.
Enter Head Coach Davis Payne. Earned his ticket coaching St. Louis' AHL affiliate the Peoria Rivermen before being named Head Coach of St. Louis during the 2009-10 season. He coached the Blues to 137 games at a record of 67-55-15. He was fired almost two years ago to the day, November 6, 2011. His record at the time of the firing that season was 6-7-0-0 through 13 games.
An intriguing young core not performing, stumbling as they tried to walk and run, doing nothing but tripping over themselves. They just couldn't do it, for whatever the reasons. A Head Coach who simply could not get them going. A young intriguing core group who simply couldn't find it's groove in the NHL. Ladies and gentleman, that was the St. Louis Blues a mere two seasons ago. Ladies and gentleman, that is the Winnipeg Jets, today.
Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Ondrej Pavelec. This core has an average age of approximately 24.6. All come with intriguing potential, all deemed the future of the Winnipeg Jets. All however, are not performing up to standards. They are not taking that next step. They are fluttering in the wind, going nowhere.
Enter Head Coach Claude Noel. Earned his ticket coaching the AHL's Manitoba Moose before being named Head Coach of the Winnipeg Jets in June 2011. He has coached the Jets to 147 games with a mediocre record of 67-65-15. Claude's record at this point in time is 6-9-2 through 17 games.
You can have a strong blueprint. You can make your bread and butter in your scouting, drafting, and developing. You can hold on to your draft picks as if they're gold. You can have an intriguing young hockey team, a core group that on paper looks pretty darn good, has potential. You can also make difficult and truthfully, unfortunate decisions when things aren't going well. You can make a big trade to alter the room, change things up with the roster. You can fire a head coach in order to implement a new direction, a new voice, a new vision.
The St. Louis Blues just two short seasons ago stood up and said enough is enough, we've got to do something here in order to take a chance in maximizing our assets, maximizing our young core. It may pay dividends, it may not, but spinning our wheels in the mud will get us nowhere.
Perhaps the Winnipeg Jets under the guidance of Claude Noel and the roster as it is turns things around. Perhaps they do what the St. Louis Blues couldn't do just a couple short seasons ago. Or, perhaps what St. Louis did is in line with what the Winnipeg Jets need to do. One day, we may find out, maybe it works, maybe it doesn't.
Sometimes, you just have to make a bold change, or two.